06 Mar The Threat to Christianity
In the past 100 years, the greatest enemy of Christianity – and indeed humanity – has been the ideology of communism. Put forward as a solution to economic inequality, communism’s record as the most murderous political and social movement in human history is without parallel.
Communism never took root where it was first intended – Great Britain and Germany – but instead became the government in Russia following their defeat to the Germans in World War I. Over the next forty years, the Russian government caused the deaths of million of its own citizens through the starvation of the Ukrainians in 1932-33, the Great Terror of 1936-8, the gulags or labor camps, and the routine murder of political opponents.
The Chinese version of communism under Mao Zedong was even worse: the Great Leap Forward (1958-62) accounted for the lives of between 15 to 55 millions. In Cambodia, the communist regime under Pol Pot murdered up to a quarter of its population. Other communist countries, such as East Germany, operated as police states. In all of these countries, we witness the soul-destroying effects of communist rule: the lack of a free press, a handful of elites who enrich themselves at the expense of others, the growth of bureaucracy and government corruption, the rewriting of history and willingness to suppress freedom of speech.
I have never really understood why communism, with its deadly track record, should continue to enjoy the support of intellectuals and professors at colleges. Imagine a professor extolling the virtues of national socialism (Nazism)? They would rightly be cast out. And yet, communist apologists continue to enjoy the benefits of free speech and good incomes, courtesy of the capitalist system they profess to despise. They influence the thinking of our next generation, many of whom have embraced the idealism of socialism and communism without studying its history. The argument of “but it hasn’t been properly tested”, doesn’t hold up. The evidence is plain, but communism’s advocates simply choose to ignore it.
Communism threatens Christianity precisely because Christianity threatens communism’s desire to control every aspect of human social, intellectual and political life. In Russia, the Soviets dynamited churches and made people burn their icons. The priesthood was infiltrated by the KGB. The communist party placed the Bible, and even children’s books, on the forbidden list. The church went underground, as communism took the place of the state “religion.” Monsters like Stalin were lauded as “Dear Father”; anyone offering a dissenting voice could expect a 3 am visit from the KGB, to be taken away and never heard of again.
One of the most implacable opponents of communism was Pope John Paul II. In his native Poland, he saw at first hand the destructive influences of the communist regime. The fall of the Berlin Wall seemed to presage the end of communism, at least in Europe, and the church emerged from the ruins of the communist state with its message of hope intact. The courage of its members, such as Lech Walesa, ensured it would continue to have a place of honor in the lives of the people.
While persecution of Christianity is worldwide, the greatest number of persecuted Christians today are in China. The former Chinese leader Mao ZeDong attempted to eliminate Christianity altogether and promote the atheism which underlies communist ideology. The church went underground but emerged in the 1980s during the relaxation of restrictions under Deng Xiaoping. Today, there are estimated to be 50 million Christians in China, but under the current Premier Xi Jinping they are facing a clampdown. The human rights activist Benedict Rogers recently described the situation:
“Every church is now forced to demonstrate its loyalty to the CCP by displaying portraits of Xi Jinping and party propaganda banners alongside, or even instead of, religious images. Surveillance cameras are installed at the altar, recording all who attend, while under-18s are prohibited from going into places of worship at all. Meanwhile, Christians on low incomes have been pressured by officials to give up their faith, with threats that their state support could be withheld.”
In 2018 the Roman Catholic Church came to an agreement – the text of which remains secret – with the Chinese government. With the intention of safeguarding the church, Pope Francis allowed the Chinese Communist party to nominate new bishops, for final approval by the Pope. In return, catholics who had been imprisoned were expected to be released. However, that did not happen. To make matters worse, in a recent Order (No. 15) issued late last year by the Chinese government, China gave itself the power to choose bishops without reference to the Pope. Thus has the Catholic church been duped by the communists, who in future will determine what direction the church can take.
This includes the acceptance of a new “translation” of the Bible. This is a travesty of Christ’s teachings, and a warning from the present of how communist ideology is the greatest threat to the truth of the Christian message. Here is an example:
From the actual Gospel of John:
And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
From the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church Gospel of John:
When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, “I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.”
There are two things you can do now on behalf of Christians in China. You can pray for them, that God may protect them and keep them strong in the true faith. The second thing you can do is to write to your elected representative and ask them to hold the Chinese government accountable for religious freedom.
We already know about the current imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps in the northwest of China. After 1945, we said “never again,” and yet it is happening again.
With Christians also being arrested, tortured and imprisoned, how long will we remain silent in the face of this violence to Christ and his Church?
Father David Beresford